Complaints About Justice Department Go Nowhere
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 12:29Written by Andrew KreigFriday, 27 May 2011 16:59
By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

Andrew KreigArnett Thomas, a small business contractor, an ex-offender and a community activist from Irvington, New Jersey, travelled from his home near Newark to the nation’s capital this month with a simple objective: He wanted to hand-deliver legal papers to the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of a friend.

But the Justice Department’s rules forbade Thomas and a colleague from dropping off the filing. This was because of federal safety procedures created for installations such as the DOJ that secure potentially controversial personnel. The rules, created after the 2001 anthrax scare in Washington, DC, limit hand-deliveries by the public, except in special circumstances. Frustrated by such rules that are largely unknown to the general public, Thomas and his friend, a retired policeman, sought me out at the nearby Justice Integrity Project offices following several months of correspondence with me about their larger concerns. Thomas is chairman of the Essex County Legal Defense Coalition for Sonnie L. Cooper, a defendant in a federal bribery case pending since early in 2010 in Newark’s federal court. We discussed that case from the vantage of a coffee shop a block from the Justice Department “Main Justice” headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Today, I provide my end of that conversation about DOJ complaint procedures. My goal is to guide others trying to find their way through the maze. In doing so, I’ll show why cockroaches and deadly anthrax vividly illustrate how Washington really works. That comes later. For now as an overview: Authorities keep procedures needlessly complicated. This complexity discourages complaints. I won’t attempt in this column to judge the Sonnie Cooper case, much less suggest what its outcome at trial, scheduled to begin next month. Several times, as in the unrelated federal prosecution in New Jersey of an accused candidate, Louis Manzo, we have researched a case enough to speak out against injustice. Manzo, for example, was prosecuted under a law intended for office-holders, not candidates. All four federal judges ruling on the issue have so decided. But I have not studied the Cooper case sufficiently to make those kinds of conclusions.

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